Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
BY VICTORIA FITZGERALD
Second year Film and Media Arts and Women’s Studies student at Temple University, Kara Lieff, originally produced the short film for a class to highlight the common misconception of a direct correlation between a woman’s choice of clothing and her sexual availability. Lieff gave this background information to street harassment blog Stop Street Harassment:
“‘Asking For It’ was made for those who believe that there is a definitive connection between a woman’s clothing choice and her sexual availability. Many people think that women who dress a certain way are asking to be, or wouldn’t mind being, bothered, but this satirical take on street harassment shows that what a women really wants does not coincide with her attire.
This video was created for a class, and the assignment was to make a video that would get viewers to accomplish a certain action. I knew that I wanted my video to be a conversation starter – for my viewers to discuss street harassment, their experiences, why it happens, who is to blame, and what can be done to combat this problem. By featuring college-aged adults, I especially hope to reach out to my peers early on.
Street harassment is a huge problem, and any method used – whether it be talking back, writing, art, or videos – to fight back is a step in the right direction.”
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
In 2004, I went to Bangkok to give a Tai Chi presentation at the 15th International AIDS Conference, and while I was there I noticed an interesting bill-board. It depicted a young girl kneeling in front of a man, with her head bowed and hands clasped in the prayer position. I asked the driver what it meant, and he replied in a matter-of-fact tone that the girl was pleading with her father not to sell her into prostitution to support their family. Needless to say, I was deeply shocked, but thought that perhaps it was a problem isolated to poorer societies than those in the U.S. Some of the statistics are startling: over 32 million people are enslaved around the world, and 80% percent of these victims are forced into sexual servitude. Sex trafficking is the second most profitable illicit business globally. And it’s not just a problem overseas, it’s increasing in severity right here in the United States. When I got back to the States from Thailand, I found out that there are 100,000-300,000 American children forced into prostitution. Young girls in every state, some not even twelve years old, have been targeted for kidnapping on their way home from school, or taken in as runaways by pimps, who then sell them into sexual slavery.
I think it would be very helpful to raise awareness of this crime, which very often has subtle indicators. This is especially true, because it may not be obvious who is a victim of sex trafficking, and many times victims try to hide their victimhood for their own safety. The life of a sex trafficking victim is narrow in scope and possibility, and they live a strictly regimented existence. Usually this entails seeing “customers,” working their day jobs, which they have been forced to perform with coercion, and sleeping and living under close supervision in the brothel, hotel, apartment, or restaurant where they work. They are not permitted to go out on their own, for fear that they might escape, and the slave master will lose his (or in rare cases, her) investment. Many times, victims are charged “fees” by their slave masters for the slightest transgression, which even further hobbles their ability to become independent. They are routinely threatened with injury, death, deportation, not only to themselves, but to their families back in their home countries. This is one of the strongest deterrents to escape, and only the strongest and most desperate victims are able to overcome the severe psychological abuses, which keep them locked in their situation. Sex trafficking victims in the United States work in many jobs right under our noses, including office cleaners, landscapers, street vendors, wait staff, bus boys, and hotel cleaning crews.
Frequently, someone is rescued from this type of abuse only after a call is made to law enforcement when an observant and intuitive person sees something that doesn’t add up. Perhaps it’s a massage parlor that’s open 24 hours per day, or a waiter or waitress that seems afraid to speak to you if you ask about what it’s like living in the U.S., as compared to back home in Thailand, for instance. Sometimes it might be just as subtle as a stern look from someone’s boss that elicits an actual look of fear. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, and you suspect that a worker around you is being exploited, whether a minor, or not, you may be saving a person’s life by alerting the authorities. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a hotline: (888) 373-7888 to call in tips, or to file an anonymous report. The sooner we start waking up to the prevalence of this situation in the United States and around the globe, the sooner we’ll be able to ensure a safe and wholesome childhood for the next generation of girls.
This week we had the honor of presenting at the Roots Of Change conference in Portland! Emily gave the history of Hollaback! and talked about why street harassment matters. Our board member Chad Sniffen presented on the history of bystander engagement and how Hollaback! is leveraging it in their “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, and our site leader from Portland, Joe LeBlanc, presented on how their critical diverse partnerships are to making the revolution in Portland go down. Our HOLLAfriends Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman were also there delivering the best. presentations. ever. If you ever get a change to see either of them speak — don’t walk. Run. Their bold visions for a world without sexual violence make it all feel possible.
A note from Emily May, executive director: I’ve spent the past 18 years knowing that my younger sister was the coolest girl on the planet. So when she reached out to me to start volunteering for Hollaback!, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean of course — she’s awesome. But I couldn’t help to feel angry at whatever turd inspired her new volunteering gig. I mean — how can someone street harass my little sister? The one whose diaper I changed when I was 12? I wanted to march down to North Carolina and give this turd a piece of my mind. But my super-smart sister was one step ahead of me. We would proudly join forces and fight street harassment together! Go, sis. You never cease to amaze me. The following is her college essay.
BY KIMBERLY MAY
Street harassment is not only a personal, local, national, or an international concern. It is all of them. Street harassment is any behavior that occurs between strangers that is unwanted, disrespectful, threatening, or harassing and is motivated by gender. Street harassment can range from strange looks and whistles to actual sexual assault or even murder. Statistics show that nearly 100% of females experience street harassment of some form, starting around age twelve and continuing into their 80s.
In 2005 my sister, Emily May, and a group of friends decided to try to put an end to street harassment. They started a blog called Hollaback! where women who are harassed share their story and sometimes a photograph on the website. This movement started in New York City, and now has chapters all over the world.
I have always supported Hollaback! because of Emily, but I did not really understand the full importance of ending street harassment. As I have gotten older and street harassment occurs to me, I have realized how important it is to create awareness of street harassment to try to abolish it. I now work as a volunteer for Hollaback! approving posts and comments that people send in. I edit the posts, give them a title, and then post them on the Hollaback! website.
I think it is terrible that women have to be afraid of going places alone because of the fear of being harassed. It is not fair that street harassment is just accepted as “the price you pay for being a woman.” Even in a small town like I am from women experience street harassment, and it is truly scary at times. I believe that we can work together to eradicate street harassment by being proactive, and I am very proud to be part of a movement that is attempting to accomplish this.
Each year, both men and women have three basic choices for Halloween.
1.) Go costume-less, maybe with a nod to the day by wearing all black, or wear a t-shirt that says “Costume”:
“Halloween means nothing to me, and I’m sure-as-hell not going to make an ass out of myself….again.”
2.) Go all-out, and start hand-sewing the costume the day after last year’s Halloween, like you’re preparing to join a professional samba school for Carnival:
“Halloween, or Samhain, as it should be called, is the best day to honor the dissolving of the walls between the material world and the spiritual world. That is why I have brought dried sage to burn for all of you.”
(full disclosure: I’m allowed to make fun of this, because it was my Celtic ancestors who were probably dancing around naked in the woods…)
3.) Throw something together, either kick-ass or lame-ass, really doesn’t matter at this point, a scant two hours before the office party: “I worked 80 hours last week, not including overtime, and didn’t really have time to plan for this, but I’ll be damned if I’m the only one without a costume this year.”
I’d like to encourage you to go with options b) or c). All kidding aside, option b) might actually be the best (even if you’re too late for the obsessive planning-ahead component), because it speaks to the actual meaning of the day. Samhain, which predates All Hallow’s Eve, was traditionally a time for reflection and meditation on death, and a way to honor one’s actual or spiritual ancestors. It’s basically an opportunity to celebrate those who lived before you. Which makes it an ideal time to remember those many women and men who have made a significant difference to later generations of women, chiefly in the areas of race, class and gender equality and opportunity. I’m thinking of the great feminists from around the globe, not only the ones with whom we are familiar. Consider this: You can’t walk out of the door in costume on Halloween without somebody asking, “Who are you supposed to be?” Let’s give others something to think about, by going as (in no particular order):
I’ve purposely chosen individuals who may not be household names but who’ have certainly changed the world in which we live. If you “go” as one of them, or some other notable figure, you’ve got an opportunity to start a real conversation. So let’s have fun today, be true to one’s self and our spiritual ancestors.
Reuben Fernandez, deceased Keenan Santos and
BY VICTORIA FITZGERALD
On Saturday night an innocent dinner of six friends in Mumbai, India, ended in the violent murder of a 24-year-old man and left another victim fighting for his life in Kokilaben hospital. How did this happen? Keenan Santos confronted a vile drunk that was sexually harassing his girlfriend.
According to the DN Nagar police in Amboli, Andheri residents Keenan Santos (24), Reuben Fernandez (29) and Avinash Solanki (31) dined out at Amboli Bar and Kitchen on Saturday night where they were joined by Santos and Fernandez’ girlfriend and a common friend.
The group of friends left the restaurant at 11 pm and headed out for some paan. Standing at a nearby stall, they were approached by a clearly inebriated eve-teaser, a euphemism for sexual harassment of women by men in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who was alleged to have made sexual advances towards Santos girlfriend. As a natural reaction to defend his girlfriend, Santos confronted the man and pushed him away. A heated exchange erupted with alleged attacker, Jitendra Rana, fleeing the scene, whilst threatening to return. Shaken but not taking the threats seriously they continued to enjoy their night.
A short time later Rana returned with a group of what is believed to be 13 men brandishing swords and knives. Santos was stabbed so violently in the stomach that he was disemboweled, Fernandez was stabbed four times and Bali suffered minor cuts and bruises.
Both men were taken to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital where Santos was pronounced dead at 1 am and Fernandez is still critically ill. Santos father arrived at the hospital moments before he died, he said:
“”I drove to the hospital, and reached to find my son struggling for his life. He breathed his last within minutes.”
Senior police inspector, Vijay Kumar Bhoite, who is in charge of the investigation made this statement:
“We have arrested Rana, Both and Durgaj. We are on the lookout for the fourth accomplice, Deepak… We have asked the hotel to give us their CCTV grabs, so we can find out how many more goons were involved in the crime.”
We at Hollaback! want to give a big shout out to our sisters at Hollaback! Mumbai and want to show our support at such a tragic loss of human life. We encourage you to keep holla-ing back in the face of adversity. We also pay tribute to brave and heroic soul Keenan Santos for standing up and giving his life to speak out against injustice.
BY VICTORIA FITZGERLD
20 years ago this month Anita Hill courageously thrust the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the American public consciousness when she spoke out about the inappropriate behavior of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
To celebrate the profound impact made by Hill’s appearance at the all-white, all-male congressional hearing in 1991, The Nation has brought together a whole host of inspirational women, including playwright Eve Ensler, the Domestic Workers Alliance’s Ai-Jen Poo and our very own badass Chief Executive Emily May to discuss the implications of Hill’s legacy. This awesome troop of ladies not only discuss how Hill orchestrated a change in the workplace but also what remains to be done. In particular, there is a legal loop-hole that alienates domestic workers. To be protected from workplace sexual harassment or discrimination there needs to be a minimum number of employees, in many instances at least five, which excludes workforces of one. This has to change. Watch the video so you yourself can inspire change!
In 100 years of IBM’s existence the company has never had a female CEO, until now, cue Virginia “Ginni” Rometty. As of January 2012 Rometty will step into the shoes of current CEO Sam Palmisano. The news comes hot on the heels of Meg Whitman’s appointment last month as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
It is so refreshing to see these trailblazers of female equality and empowerment, women that we can look up to and say that we want to be just like them. In the immortal words of Marie Wilson of The White House Project, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And this is absolutely the case, seeing the likes of Rometty and Whitman’s rise to success sets a sterling example to the next generation of kick-ass feminists.
We are now seeing not one but TWO long-overdue examples of women in positions of power. It will follow that more women will pursue such high-power positions with fewer impediments; women’s power will become normalized and more people will come to believe that ALL people can operate in all fields at all levels! Pink-collar jobs no more!
Rometty is being touted as successful, passionate and inquisitive by a friendly environment of fellow IBM-ers. This is great news for our equality-seeking world but it certainly isn’t enough to have two female CEOs of major technology companies. New leadership is needed. Step to the fore!
Although this is noteworthy step for female equality, it is common knowledge that females in America make up over half the work force, but still only make 70 cents to every male dollar and as of 2011 only 12 of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, none of whom make the top ten. In fact, the highest raking female, Patricia A. Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland, only made it to number 39.
As we continue to stand up against street harassment and reach for high-ranking positions in all sectors we can all take on the methods of activist work. And I would say visibility is key. We have to be able to see ourselves represented, or else we’ll be commodified, mythologized and used for other peoples’ purposes. Many of us were taught to be meek and unseen so male supremacy could rein. To combat that old oppression, let’s be passionate, steadfast and BAD-ASS leaders so equality can supersede patriarchy.
Scroll to the bottom of The Village Voice’s homepage and you will find a bland, colorless gray box labeled backpage.com. The last sentence of the disclaimer preempting sections of the gray box listed under “Adult” reads:
“I also agree to report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.”
But no disclaimer is going to put right the wrong done to children victimized by sex trafficking.
Village Voice Media, owner of 13 alternative newspapers including the Village Voice and LA Weekly, is also owner of the online classified site Backpage.com, which has been severely criticized for refusing to do away with its adult advertising on the site.
In September of 2010, 21 State Attorney Generals requested for Backpage to remove its adult services sections stating that they “believe that ads for prostitution—including ads
trafficking children—are rampant on the site.” Backpage declined the request of the attorney generals stating:
“Censorship will not create public safety nor will it rid the world of exploitation.”
This past September, Village Voice Media was again urged by a group of 45 attorney generals to help end the use of their site as a “hub” for trafficking minors.
On Tuesday, the Groundswell movement, a new multi-faith coalition took out a full-page New York Times advertisement. The advertisement was an open letter to the CEO and Chair Jim Larkin and Board of Directors of Village Voice Media, urging them to follow the lead of Craigslist (which removed it’s adult services section in 2010) and shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. Again, Village Voice Media refused, instead pointing out on the Village Voice blog that criminals use cell phones and no one is blaming Verizon or AT&T!
The Groundswell Movement is now urging clergy and concerned citizens (THAT’S YOU!) to sign a petition demanding that Village Voice Media shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. Make a difference and sign the petition today!
BY VICTORIA FITZGERALD
On Tuesday, the Girl Scouts of Colorado spoke out in support of transgender children. This comes hot on the heels of news that the leader of a Girl Scout troop in Denver initially told 7-year-old Bobby Montoya that, despite identifying as a girl, she could not join because she had “boy parts.” The Girl Scouts of Colorado maintained that the troop leader responsible was unaware of the organization’s policy and released this statement:
“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members… If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout… Our requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to best support these children, their families and the volunteers who serve them.”
The Colorado branch also emphasized that they would be reaching out to the family of Bobby Montoya as well as working to customize their training programs so that all girls would be included.
Corey Barrett of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado commented on the matter:
“I think it’s all about providing a healthy environment for them for that to happen. Everyone needs to be prepared or at least have an idea from a policy and procedure stand point how they’re going to address that.”
This is such a huge step in working towards a more inclusive society where normal is normal, rather than a crazy, archaic stereotype. We say bravo to Girl Scouts Colorado for setting such a fantastic example for breaking down barriers of prejudice. But of course, we have an even bigger and more awesome round of applause for teeny tiny, bad-ass, feminist of the future, Bobby Montoya for being herself and driving a change that will benefit so many that come after her.